After the opening two rounds of the 2018 NCAA tournament, just one team with one Aussie is left standing. #2 seed Duke and sophomore forward Jack White have progressed to the Sweet 16 after accounting for Iona and Rhode Island.
Duke were in total control of their tournament opener against Iona. The Blue Devils opened strongly but Iona hung around close enough for most of it to keep things interesting. Yet Duke broke away just before half time and then kept edging further ahead to register a convincing 69-89 win. Jack White entered the game in the second half, playing, 7 minutes for 3 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 blocked shot. With #1 seed Virginia going down in the 1st round, the the Blue Devils looked comfortable.
They lifted their defensive presence against Rhode Island and were never seriously threatened in a 62-87 victory. White came on late to add 2 points, 1 rebound and 1 assist in just 4 minutes. But despite playing behind a number of NBA-bound freshman, White and his Duke side are into the Sweet 16 where they will face the winner of Syracuse and Michigan State.
But while Duke progress, the Florida Gators fell in the 2nd round to Texas Tech 66-69 in a close one. The Gators made it through to the contest after navigating their way past St Bonaventure 62-77 in the 1st round. In that game, Australian big man Gorjok Gak came off the bench to contribute 3 rebounds and 1 steal in 8 minutes. However against the Red Raiders, they just could not buy the go-ahead basket late in the game to steal the win. Two three-pont attempts in the final 10 second were off-target, resulting in the Gators missing out progressing to the Sweet 16 or beyond for the first time in their last six NCAA Tournament appearances. Gak played just 5 m,inutes for 3 rebounds and 1 block, but his season came to an early end.
1st Round Exits
Arizona upset by speed
After winning the Pac-12 Tournament, Arizona were were upset by a red-hot #13 seed Buffalo. In going down 89-68, the Wildcats were unable to contain Buffalo’s dribble penetration and in turn the result busted a lot of brackets. Senior forward Keanu Pinder came off the bench and played some valuable minutes. In his final collegiate game, Pinder finished with 6 points on a perfect 3-3 shooting with 2 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal.
Buzzer-beating triple undoes Miami
Miami were in front, they had control, and yet Loyola-Chicago hung tough. They hung around, and they had a chance to steal the win. With last possession and trailing by 1, a three-pointer launched well beyond the arc at the top of the key sunk the Hurricane’s tournament chances. Despite 0.3 seconds reinstated, Miami were unable to score and fell to an agonisingly tough 64-62 upset defeat. Sharpshooting guard Dejan Vasiljevic was on-target, going 4-5 from the field for 9 points, 5 rebounds and 1 assist, but it was not enough to prevent and early tournament exit.
Grizzlies push Michigan
Big Sky champions Montana did a great job of turning their match-up with Michigan into a defensive slog, opening up a 10-0 lead at the start. Yet the Wolverines chipped way to eventually take the lead, and advance thanks to a 47-61 result. Aussie senior Fabijan Krslovic played his role to near perfection, help clog up the lane and make life difficult for scoring. He finished with 5 points and 3 rebounds, closing out his college career by playing in the NCAA Tournament.
Creighton bounced by Kansas State
As the #8 seed taking on the #9 seed, Creighton found the going tough against Kansas State right from the outset. While they never gave up, the Bluejays wer ebeaten by 4 points in the half to go down 69-59. Jacob Epperson capped off what could be deemed a successful freshman season, playing 16 minutes off the bench in providing 1 rebound and 1 block.
TCU painted Orange
In a battle between the Horned Frogs’s offense and Syracuse’s zone, it was the latter who prevailed in their 1st round contest. The 57-52 loss resulted in TCU still searching for their first NCAA Tournament all the way back to 1987. Aussie freshman Kouat Noi played a starting role, draining two triples on his way to registering 7 points and 2 assists in 25 minutes. While Noi will be back next season and will be joined by fellow Aussie red-shirt Lat Mayen, assistant head coach David Patrick will not as he takes on the head coaching role at UC Riverside.
New Mexico State undone by hot Clemson
Clemson’s first half lead and three-point shooting saw them get over the line against a gallant New Mexico State, prevailing 68-79. Despite winning the second half by 2, the Aggies were unable to peg back the 12-point half time deficit. Freshman Aussie Gabe Hadley did not get a chance to leave the bench, and will be looking forward to a larger role as a sophomore.